2015 Subaru WRX review

Subaru's 2015 WRX is the family-hauling rally car you actually want to own

The Subaru WRX is the practical, livable brother of the mental STI. But with 268 hp on tap, it could be the perfect performance car for the Monday-Friday crowd.
The Subaru WRX is the practical, livable brother of the mental STI. But with 268 hp on tap, it could be the perfect performance car for the Monday-Friday crowd.
The Subaru WRX is the practical, livable brother of the mental STI. But with 268 hp on tap, it could be the perfect performance car for the Monday-Friday crowd.


  • Impressive acceleration from turbocharged boxer engine
  • Flat, stable handling
  • Aggressive and attractive exterior styling
  • Excellent electric power steering
  • Great visibility from the sleek (but Spartan) cabin


  • Underwhelming infotainment options (Fixed for 2016)

I stood in silence propped up by a rusty fence. Camera in hand, I waited for the perfect shot. I had been searching for the perfect angle all day, but at the Oregon Trail Rally, it wasn’t easy. The ground outside Dufur, Oregon was cracked and uneven, and the magnificent clouds of earth kicked up by the competitors consistently covered my lens.

I learned the WRX’s charms, quirks, and faults, just as a racing driver does with his machine.

But then I heard it: the unmistakable roar of a turbocharged boxer engine. It was a familiar sound at this point, as I had been driving a 2015 WRX for the week, but this STI rally car was meaner, less forgiving, and much more of a brute.

Like some sort of automotive anthropologist, I studied my test car’s powerful and more primal cousin, in awe of the speed, ferocious sound, and marvelous golden plume left in its wake. Then I thought back to my WRX, the everyday sports car that was born from this type of beast.

It can ferry families in comfort with the best of ‘em, but the beaten path is a Subaru’s playground. Over my week with the car, I learned its charms, quirks, and faults, just as a racing driver does with his machine.

My pockets are grimy and my ears still ring, but the WRX’s sweet song definitely deserves a repeat.

The ol’ dusty trail

There’s nothing like the sound of a boxer in the morning.

No, no that kind of boxer; we won’t be reviewing the Pacquiao vs. Mayweather superdud here. The pugilist I refer to is the turbocharged flat-four that lurks under the WRX’s vented aluminum hood.

For 2015, the burbly 2.0-liter makes 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, the latter of which comes on from 2,000 rpm to 5,200 rpm. With a 0 to 60 mph time of around 5.2 seconds when fitted with the six-speed, it’s not STI fast; but the responsive acceleration and subtle turbo whine make for plenty of fun behind the flat-bottomed steering wheel.

And you know what? I’m actually glad it’s not STI fast. The STI may be quicker and flatter in the bends, but it’ll kill your back after a long day. Having driven the 2015 model for our Car of the Year Awards, there should definitely be a ‘call your chiropractor’ button on the steering wheel.

The turbo is not overly thirsty, making passing effortless and grin inducing.

The WRX, by contrast, is forgiving. It soaks up bumps and imperfections with ease. It keeps you in place with its pleasant sport seats and doesn’t pay major comfort penalties in the pursuit of performance.

That being said, as I set off for Dufur, I was immediately impressed by the vehicle’s handling. The ride is firm, but not overly so, and it stayed remarkably composed and planted in the curves. The suspension tuning and 40-percent stiffer body really are top-notch. However, the car’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system with torque vectoring deserves a ton of credit as well.

I enjoyed the car so much, I found myself calculating how much time I had to reach Dufur so I could soak up the backroads as long as possible. After finding the perfect country path, the WRX’s twin-scroll turbo and I became very good friends, sucking in near equal amounts of air as we easily carved through second-gear switchbacks. The car just goes where you want it to, punctuated by perhaps the best electronic power steering system in the business.

After my honeymoon phase with the WRX’s turbine subsided (temporarily), I pointed the car toward the freeway onramp and settled in. I was expecting the fun to be over, but the WRX has surprisingly good highway manners. In sixth gear at cruising speed, the turbo is ready and willing but not overly thirsty, making passing effortless and grin inducing.

Finally, realizing I was running late, I set the cruise control and made my way east alongside the beautiful ‘River Oregon.’

Fit and finish

The WRX is a vehicle with few major flaws, but unfortunately all of them exist inside the cabin. I have no issues with the material quality or overall layout (though there is a fair amount of tire noise at freeway speeds), but the infotainment options really are quite underwhelming.

Endlessly entertaining performance in a package you’ll actually enjoy.

My Premium model, which costs $29,639 with destination charges, boasts a non-touch stereo head unit straight out of the early 2000s. There’s a 4.3-inch LCD display above for rear camera and media information, but the whole system is very … blah.

There is some good news, though, because, for 2016, the base model WRX will gain a 6.2-inch ‘StarLink’ infotainment screen with multi-touch gesture controls, SMS texting, iTunes tagging, and an extra USB port. Premium and Limited versions get a 7.0-inch screen, along with larger 18-inch wheels.

Outside of those gripes, the visibility is excellent on the current car, the red contrast stitching is nice, and the seats are supportive enough.

From the outside, I definitely miss the hatchback profile, but I found the car attractive and interesting from nearly all angles. It’s not so aggressive that you’ll get revved on by every youngster in an Eclipse, but its chunky side skirts, angular front bumper, and subtle rear spoiler give it a lot more character than the standard Impreza.

In fact, I think it’s quite pretty.

Down and dirty

100-mile trek over, I arrived in Dufur. The town is small, you can practically see its boundaries from the city center, but it has a distinct homegrown charm. It also happens to be flanked by incredible Pacific Northwest landscapes, including the towering Mt. Hood and rolling hills straight out of a Windows desktop background.

Tons of cars showed up for the OTR this year: some old, some new, some professionally built, and a healthy smattering of weekend warriors. The stars were undoubtedly David Higgins of Subaru Rally Team USA and his co-driver Craig Drew. In their bespoke 2015 WRX STI, they slid, jumped, and galloped to their seventh consecutive OTR victory.

Higgins capped off a memorable Stage 11 with a massive powerslide, and I caught myself cracking a cheery (and dusty) smile. “This is rallying,” I thought to myself. It’s messy, action-packed, and without pretension.

In the same day, I saw a tuned Mitsubishi EVO obliterate a turn advisory sign, I saw cars that cost more than houses push the limits of motoring, and I witnessed a 1980s-era Volvo 200 Series mosey through the turns without worry of podiums or trophies.

One would think that after watching Higgins’ STI scream around Dufur’s farm roads, my standard WRX would be an absolute bore. But it wasn’t.


The car may have grown in size and maturity over the years, but the spunky WRX hasn’t forgotten its roots. On the curvy roads outside Portland, paved or otherwise, the WRX was home.

It feels like a sports car, but it’s a grown up sports car. There’s no ridiculous wing, shiny red brake calipers, or rock-hard bucket seats, just reliable, endlessly entertaining performance wrapped up in a package you’ll actually enjoy being in.

Better yet, I didn’t have to wear a helmet, I wasn’t sweating, and I could relax and enjoy the beautiful skyline instead of worrying about the next hairpin. This is truly a hard car to dislike, and after returning almost 30 mpg on the highway, my wallet was pretty fond of it as well.


  • Impressive acceleration from turbocharged boxer engine
  • Flat, stable handling
  • Aggressive and attractive exterior styling
  • Excellent electric power steering
  • Great visibility from the sleek (but Spartan) cabin


  • Underwhelming infotainment options (fixed for 2016)

How the Google Stadia could lead to a new era of multi-GPU gaming

Google's Stadia could use more than one graphics card to deliver the high-performance visuals it's promised. If that leads to better developer support for multi-GPUs, could that mean gaming with two or more graphics cards could finally be…
Smart Home

Viral porch pirate videos freak people out, cause unrealistic concern

Viral porch pirate videos convince others crime is more prevalent than facts indicate. According to polls, even though FBI reports show property crime rates are at historic lows, more people worry about crime today than ever before.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.

This modified Land Rover Discovery is heading to Africa to help fight malaria

A Land Rover Discovery will be used by the Mobile Malaria Project for a 3,900-mile trek across Africa to study malaria. The SUV is equipped with a mobile gene-sequencing laboratory, as well as everything necessary for serious off-roading.

Volvo wants to use speed limiters, in-car cameras, and data to reduce crashes

Volvo believes new tech is the best way to improve car safety. The Swedish automaker will let owners set speed limits when loaning out their cars, install cameras to monitor drivers, and use data to design better safety features.
Product Review

The Ferrari Portofino is the super stallion you’ll want to drive every day

With the introduction of the Portofino, Ferrari addresses the California T’s stylistic shortcomings while improving comfort, convenience, and performance. There’s little “entry-level” about this super stallion.

BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe teased way ahead of its November debut

The BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe is coming to the United States, eventually. The new compact BMW won't be unveiled until the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show in November. The Gran Coupe will be based on a front-wheel drive platform.

Tesla lets you skip the dealership, order a car from the comfort of your couch

Tesla has always bypassed traditional dealerships, and it has now adopted an online-only sales model that lets customers configure and order their car without leaving their couch. Here's what you need to know.

Autonomous shuttle rides coming to New York City via Optimus Ride

Workers at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in NY City will soon be able to make their way around the 300-acre industrial park in Optimus Ride's self-driving shuttles. The tech startup says it's the first trial of its kind in the state.

Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi group uses Microsoft cloud platform for connected cars

The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance is launching a new cloud platform for its cars. Based on Microsoft Azure, the Alliance Intelligent Cloud will enable features like connected services and over-the-air updates.

The 2019 Toyota C-HR gains a popular tech feature as its price comes down

Toyota has updated the C-HR, its entry-level crossover, by adding an entry-level trim level to the lineup. Every model regardless of price also comes standard with an 8.0-inch touchscreen compatible with Apple CarPlay.
Product Review

2019 Volkswagen Jetta offers German refinement and tech at an affordable price

With enough tech to make villains jealous, the Volkswagen Jetta punches above its class as a forward-thinking sedan. Spacious, comfortable, and efficient, the Jetta is a refined offering. German refinement comes with a serious attitude.

The 2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupe is an exercise in form-over-function design

Porsche expanded its lineup of SUVs with a swoopier evolution of the Cayenne named Cayenne Coupe. Don't let the name fool you: it still has four doors. It stands out with a fastback-like roofline that's lower than the Cayenne's.